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PFT's Week Two picks

[Editor’s note:  Each week, Rosenthal and I will go head to head,
picking the winner of each game.  The guy who does worse each week gets
to be the one to copy and paste together the text the next week.  Last week, we tied.  The NBC Competition Committee decided that I should have to copy and paste it all together again.  And so I’ll take the high road and accept the ruling.  In three days, after everyone applauds me for taking the high road, I’ll bitch about it on the radio.]

[UPDATE:  As it turns out, we didn’t tie.  Rosenthal won.  And I should have kept my damn mouth shut when I realized that he’d counted his victories incorrectly.]

Bills at Packers

Florio’s take:  In Week Two of the 2009 season, the Packers hosted an AFC team, and the AFC team stole a win.  In Win Two of the 2010 season, another AFC team comes to town.  But there’s a big difference between last year’s Bengals and this year’s Bills.  Even with Packers running back Ryan Grant done for the year, Green Bay has too much talent — and the Bills don’t have nearly enough.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 42, Bills 19.

Rosenthal’s take: This reminds me of the blowout specials Florio used to get to pick last year when we split the workload.  You could try to make a case for the Bills, but you’d be trying too hard.  Buffalo doesn’t have the receiver depth to test Green Bay’s secondary.  The Bills’ three-headed running game was oddly underused last week.  Their screens were predictable.  Holes closed on C.J. Spiller a lot faster than they did at Clemson or in the preseason.  Don’t expect daylight this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 27, Bills 10.

Dolphins at Vikings

Florio’s take:  The Vikings’ offense and the Dolphins’ defense cancel each other out.  So this one will come down to the ability of the Minnesota defense to bottle up the Miami offense.  Given that the Bills were able to keep the attack largely in check last week, the Vikings should have no problems shutting them down.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 24, Dolphins 12.

Rosenthal’s take: Miami’s defense was impressive in Buffalo.  Mike Nolan did a lot of fun things with Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake; they can get pressure on Brett Favre. Even short a few players, this is an improved linebacker group.  Favre also may not be ready to take advantage of a Dolphins secondary that features Benny Sappy a little too prominently.  There’s an old axiom that you shouldn’t pick a team to cover the spread unless you think they can win. 5.5 points feels like too much.  So let’s just go all the way and take the Dolphins in an upset special.  (I changed this pick at the last minute, which is the kiss of death.)  [Editor’s note:  Hey, Rosey, if you’re gonna pick the upset, just pick the upset and be done with it.]

Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 23, Vikings 21.

Chiefs at Browns

Florio’s take:  With former Patriot Scott Pioli running the Chiefs and former Patriot turncoat Eric Mangini coaching the Browns, this one carries a strong undercurrent of hostility.  Then there’s the fact that Browns running back Jerome Harrison shredded the K.C. defense for 286 yards last December.  Look for the new-look Chiefs to bring their new attitude to Ohio, and to send the Browns to a loss in the second of two games that most expected Cleveland to win.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 20, Browns 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Remember all the positive energy in Kansas City on Monday night?  Imagine that, but the complete opposite happening in Cleveland if the Browns fall behind Sunday.  Jake Delhomme’s injury doesn’t hurt the Browns, though.  Seneca Wallace is different, and could force the Browns coaches to get creative with a roster that begs for creativity to make up for a lack of talent.  Eric Mangini can’t afford to lose the Belichick B-team Bowl after last week’s collapse in Tampa.  Romeo Crennel knows just how to lose in Cleveland.

Rosenthal’s pick: Browns 17, Chiefs 14.

Bears at Cowboys

Florio’s take:  The Bears lucked into a win at home and the Cowboys squandered a victory of their own on the road.  This week, the Cowboys head back to Dallas, 25 years after the Bears authored a 44-0 beatdown of the ‘Boys.  The Bears haven’t won in Big D since the year after that game — and their streak of futility will continue.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Bears 10.

Rosenthal’s take: No clue what to make of the Bears after last week.   Jay Cutler moved the ball very well, Matt Forte is revived, and the defense stuffed Detroit all day.  Yet they still needed a lucky call to save them from an opening loss at home.  The Cowboys are easier to read.  Their offensive line has problems and they know it.  The defense is great.  Will the return of two injured, older starting lineman be enough to turn things around?  It’s enough this week.

Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 24, Bears 20.

Cardinals at Falcons

Florio’s take:  The Cards barely beat a still-bad Rams team last week, and the Falcons gave fits to the Steelers on their home field.  Atlanta realizes that the window will close quickly if they can’t keep pace with the Saints.  Besides, Falcons are far more menacing birds.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 28, Cardinals 20.

Rosenthal’s take: Arizona fans complaining about style points last week need to get a grip.  Kurt Warner has left the building.  This is a different Cardinals team, and they are going to have to win creatively while Derek Anderson figures things out. The guy led two impressive fourth-quarter drives last week and that will do for now.  Matt Ryan, on the other hand, has struggled to move the ball since the preseason.  I think Atlanta’s improved defense carries the day here.  Both these teams deserve to be 1-1. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 19, Cardinals 14. 

Buccaneers at Panthers

Florio’s take:  Since 2003, the Panthers have handled the Bucs on 11 of 14 occasions.  Though Tampa pulled off a minor surprise on Sunday against the Browns, the Panthers can be expected to take care of business on their own turf.  If they can’t, Carolina could be 0-5 at the bye.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Buccaneers 14.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs have a golden opportunity to go 2-0, even if Panthers starting quarterback Matt Moore plays as expected despite a concussion last week.  Raheem Morris has the Bucs defense looking improved, like they did at the end of last year.  These two similar teams fly well below the NFL radar and got against current league norms.  They want to win with running, defense, and not screwing things up too badly passing the ball.  John Fox has more practice.  And better running backs. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 20, Bucs 13.

Eagles at Lions

Florio’s take:  With Mike Vick making his first start since 2006, the question becomes whether he can play like he did against the Packers, who weren’t prepared to face him, when facing a Lions team that knows Vick will be the guy.  Lions coach Jim Schwartz never has had to defend Vick; when Schwartz served as defensive coordinator for the Titans, Schwartz’s team was the last one to play the Falcons before Vick returned from a broken leg.  Look for Schwartz to try to keep Vick in the pocket in the hopes that he’ll be forced to throw — and that he’ll force a few mistakes.  And then Kevin Kolb will get “healthy” quickly.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 20, Eagles 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The battle of the tortured fan bases.  The rest of the world learned about what it meant to be a Lions fan this week.  Week One, full of hope, they lost their young franchise quarterback and a game in the most painful way possible.  The Lions have a vertical passing attack with the weakest-armed quarterback in the league in Shaun Hill.  Eagles fans have it pretty good, but they like drama.  They talked up Kevin Kolb all offseason, then gave up on him after 30 minutes.  It’s hard to blame them after the way Michael Vick played last week.  Vick will put it to the Lions just to make this whole situation more ridiculous.

Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 27, Lions 16.

Ravens at Bengals

Florio’s take:  The Bengals somehow swept the Ravens last year.  It won’t be happening again in 2010.  Baltimore looks as good as they ever have looked, and the Bengals looked nothing like they looked a year ago.  Look for Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis to continue to drop the hammer on anyone who looks in his direction.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 23, Bengals 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bengals defense said they were confused early against the Patriots.  So were guys like Tedy Bruschi that picked Cincinnati to go to the Super Bowl.  At least the Bengals passing attack showed signs of life after the early disaster.  It may have been garbage time, but Carson Palmer couldn’t put up big stats any time last year.  Unlike the Jets, Cincinnati has the weapons to take advantage of Baltimore’s secondary.

Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 27, Ravens 23.

Steelers at Titans

Florio’s take:  Last year, these two teams kicked off a season that many assumed would end in a playoff rematch.  Neither qualified for the postseason.  This year, both look like they’re on their way to another trip to January.  It all comes down to the Steelers defense against the Titans offense, and the Steelers defense is simply too tough.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 13, Titans 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Titans were my pick to win the AFC South in the PFT Season Preview, so I’m basically going to take them at home unless they are facing the ’85 Bears.  The Steelers defense isn’t at that level, but it could wind up being the best in 2010.  Pittsburgh can neutralize Chris Johnson — they held him to 57 yards in last year’s opener.  So it will come down Vince Young versus Dennis Dixon and Young should be up for the challenge. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 14, Steelers 10.

Seahawks at Broncos

Florio’s take:  Former Broncos quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who was essentially run off when Josh McDaniels became the head coach, returns to town with a team that unexpectedly won in Week One by 25 points.  But it’s one thing to put a pasting on the 49ers at home in the season opener, it’s quite another to do it in Denver.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 24, Seahawks 17.

Rosenthal’s take: These teams that are a total mystery, especially the Seahawks.  Can Seattle play so inspired without the 12th man?  What is this team good at precisely?  It looks like Pete Carroll is going to make this defense better and more interesting.  The offense has work to do.  In Denver, I know what I’m getting from Kyle Orton and his band of merry secondary receivers.  The Broncos can beat suspect NFC West teams at home.

Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 28, Seahawks 21.

Rams at Raiders

Florio’s take:  The Rams looked better than expected in Week One; the Raiders looked far worse.  But Oakland is at home and the Rams are still learning how to win.  Though neither team will be embarrassed, look for the Raiders to take care of business in the Black Hole.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 17, Rams 10.

Rosenthal’s take: The optimism stops here for one of these teams. The Raiders wouldn’t be able to sell progress after a blowout loss on the road and a home loss to the Rams.  Sam Bradford has given the Rams hope for the future, but the present looks awfully bleak if they go 0-2 with a soft opening schedule.  Two Raiders, including Jason Campbell, alluded to being overconfident heading into the Titans game.  You know, because of their draft grades.  Losing 11 or more games for seven years hasn’t humbled this franchise.  Maybe losing to the Rams will. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 21, Raiders 17.

Texans at Redskins

Florio’s take:  The reunion of the Shanahans and Gary Kubiak adds intrigue to a game that suddenly has become one of the best of the weekend give the teams’ performances in Week One.  We’ll quickly find out whether Houston tailback Arian Foster rolled up all those yards because he played against a bad run defense or because the Texans have become the ultimate “pick your poison” pass/run attack.  And we’ll find out whether the Redskins’ offense can score a touchdown or two without having it handed to them.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Redskins 24.

Rosenthal’s take: Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak are road favorites coming off a huge win. This is exactly the game they usually trip over, which worries me. Also worrisome:  Every aspect of the Redskins offense except their tackle play.  (How odd is that?)  Washington just doesn’t have enough firepower to hang with Houston, who should give Arian Foster a break and only rush him 25 times this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 24, Redskins 17.

Patriots at Jets

Florio’s take:  During an offseason of incessant Jets chirping, the Patriots have remained largely silent.  Apart from Tom Brady’s acknowledgement that he hates the Jets, the Pats have avoided the trash talk.  Instead, the Patriots have saved it for the field, and the Jets may have a hard time saving themselves as the Pats make the only kind of statement that truly matters in football.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Jets 13.

Rosenthal’s take: What goes up in the NFL usually comes down. And vice versa.  An overconfident team loses one week, gets ripped, and plays hungry the next time out.  Last year, Rex Ryan called the Jets’ Week Two game against the Patriots the team’s Super Bowl.  This one is far more important.  The Jets know they can’t go 0-2 at home to start the year. The Jets defense still looks great. The offense can find a way on the ground.  Don’t crown the Patriots yet; this will be a season-long battle.

Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Patriots 16.

Jaguars at Chargers

Florio’s take:  Most expected one of these teams to be 1-0 and the other to be 0-1; few expected that the Jaguars would be undefeated and that the Chargers would be winless.  Though it may feel like a home game for the Jaguars since the stadium will be partially empty (rim shot!), the Chargers have the horses to get back to 1-1 against a Jaguars team that overachieved against the Broncos.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 30, Jaguars 21.

Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers talked all offseason about avoiding yet another slow start to the year, and then slogged through a loss in the Kansas City rain.  Weather should be more conducive to vertical passing in San Diego this week. I don’t trust either secondary or either pass rush, even if Aaron Kampman looks like a fine pickup.  I’ll take Philip Rivers in a shootout over David Garrard every time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 34, Jaguars 26.

Giants at Colts

Florio’s take:  Peyton Manning has started 0-1 only three times in his 13-year career.  Only once, as a rookie in 1998, has Peyton Manning begun a season at 0-2.  This time around, Peyton takes an 0-1 mark into his second career game against his kid brother.  And more importantly than not going 0-2 to Peyton will be avoiding losing to Eli.  Sometimes, it really is that simple.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 31, Giants 19.

Rosenthal’s take: Both brothers have grown up a lot since the last Manning Bowl.  Peyton won a Super Bowl and did the United Way spot on Saturday Night Live.  Eli won a Super Bowl, got significantly better after the title, and adjusted his Southern fraternity mop top.  That makes this a fair fight, especially if the Giants pass rush has truly reawakened.  Fair, but not equal.  Peyton is still the one with MVPs and Peyton doesn’t start the year 0-2.

Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 34, Giants 30.

Saints at 49ers

Florio’s take:  Rarely if ever has a team with high expectations imploded as quickly as the 49ers.  They open their home schedule with a visit from the Saints, who will have had the longest possible non-bye-week time to prepare for the game, playing on a Thursday and next on the following Monday, 11 days later.  After the game, Niners coach Mike Singletary will be thanking Sean Payton in the same way Singletary thanked Pete Carroll.  

Florio’s pick:  Saints 30, 49ers 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Weirdly dangerous game for the Saints against an ornery 49ers team.  New Orleans fans don’t like that I questioned their run defense this week, but one game doesn’t erase all of last season and a shaky linebacker group.  Luckily, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams doesn’t have to get too creative to stop Alex Smith and the 49ers passing attack.  Load up the box, and dare Smith to beat you.  The Saints are in Payton/Brees version 5.0.  The essentially can do anything they choose with a veteran group of receivers.  The 49ers can’t get the play calls in on time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 27, 49ers 21.

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Greg Jennings announces his retirement

Minnesota Vikings v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Veteran receiver Greg Jennings has announced his retirement.

“Football is over. I’m done,” Jennings said in a video on YouTube. “At least within the lines of a football field, I’m done. I’m excited to be done. The past 20 years of my life has been football, but today that all changes. This smile is not going to be removed, it’s going to be enhanced. The same dedication, the same work ethic that I put into pursuing that sport, I’m pursuing everything else with the same mindset.”

The 32-year-old Jennings believes he’s still capable of contributing to some NFL team, but he thinks it’s time to try something else with his life.

“Physically I know I can still do it, I can still play, I’ve been training hard,” he said. “But I feel as though I would be going back to football, versus moving forward.”

Jennings played for the Packers from 2006 to 2012, for the Vikings in 2013 and 2014 and for the Dolphins in 2015. Last year he played in all 16 games but had career lows in catches (19), yards (208) and touchdowns (one).

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Report: Seahawks to meet with Michael Bennett’s agent this week

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Defensive end Michael Bennett has not been shy about expressing his desire for a new contract from the Seahawks, including his recent comment that “if you don’t think I’m valuable, then just get rid of me.”

The Seahawks haven’t come up with more money for Bennett to this point, but conversations on the topic are reportedly set for this week. Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that the Seahawks will meet with Bennett’s agent Doug Hendrickson “early this week.”

Bennett signed a four-year, $32 million contract with Seattle in 2014, so there are two years left on his current pact and that is usually not a moment when the Seahawks pony up more money. Coach Pete Carroll did say that “we’d like to reward everybody” when talking about Bennett this year, although Carroll followed up by saying they “can’t always do that.” The willingness to consider it could bear some fruit when the two sides have a conversation.

Bennett said earlier this offseason that “of course” he’ll be at training camp, but there’s certainly time for that to change if Bennett and Hendrickson don’t like what they hear from the team. It would cost Bennett $40,000 a day in fines to go that route, however, and that cost is a high one to pay without any guarantee of a new deal coming his way.

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Le’Veon Bell says he won’t be missing games

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 01: Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs the ball during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on October 1, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is indeed facing a four-game suspension for missing a drug test. But Bell continues to insist that he hasn’t missed a drug test — and that he won’t be missing any games.

In a comment to an altered photo on Instagram of Bell wearing a gas mask with a bong, Bell said from his verified account that “I’m not gonna miss games, trust me.”

Many will scoff at the proclamation, given the lingering perception that Commissioner Roger Goodell retains final say over all player disciplinary issues. In 2014, however, the league agreed to use a panel of neutral arbitrators for all punishments arising under the substance-abuse and PED policies. So Bell will have a chance to have a truly independent party assess whether the league’s conclusions are warranted.

Of course, that will become harder if, as NFL Media reported over the weekend, Bell has missed several drug tests.

Stop me if you’re heard this one before (actually, don’t bother because I’m going to say it again anyway): The substance-abuse policy has a clear confidentiality provision that is supposed to keep people from knowing that a player is facing a suspension until the suspension has been finalized through the appeal process. With NFL Media confirming the initial ESPN report regarding the suspension and with NFL Media advancing the story by reporting that Bell missed multiple tests, the NFL — which owns and operates NFL Media — is violating its own policy. And no one seems to be bothered by that. Ever.

It should bother Bell, his agent, the league, the Steelers, and the NFL Players Association. Bell’s case should have been handled no differently than any other situation in which a guy faced a suspension. If he prevails on appeal, no one ever would have known that anything was amiss.

That has happened in plenty of cases over the years. If Bell ultimately wins the appeal, it’s what should have happened in his case.

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Sammy Watkins: Certain things are full speed, certain things aren’t

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13:  Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball for a touchdown as Ed Reynolds #30 of the Philadelphia Eagles attempts to tackle him during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins said recently that everything is right where it needs to be in regard to his recovery from left foot surgery, although that doesn’t mean that he feels 100 percent comfortable doing everything on the football field.

Watkins said that he feels like his foot is “healed” and that he’s doing plenty of things at full speed during his workouts with the team’s strength and conditioning staff. He’s taking his time with the rest in order to avoid a setback that could put his availability for the start of the season into question.

“As far as sprinting and stuff I’m moving and doing that 100 percent,” Watkins said, via the team’s website. “Gassers, 100s, everything in the workout room. Any explosiveness I’m doing that. I’m doing the cuts, but certain things are full speed and certain things aren’t.”

Cutting off of his left foot falls into the latter category with Watkins explaining that his “foot is tense about it.” As a result, he expects a limited workload as camp unfolds so that he and the team can feel sure that he’s able to do everything all the way before the restrictions come off.

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Dungy points to Steelers as example of how to hire, retain coaches

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 3:  Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

On the surface, the NFL’s hiring practices point to a stunning failure to hire a sufficient number of African-American coaches. The more practical failure comes from the inability to hire enough good coaches, regardless of race or any other factor that shouldn’t matter.

Yes, it’s a zero-sum game. There will always be teams that fail, and the owners of the teams that fail will feel compelled to make changes in an effort to quickly reverse failure. But maybe that’s one of the things more teams should resist; regardless of a coach’s race or other factors that shouldn’t matter when it’s time to hire him, sticking with him long enough to give him a chance to flourish — or to flourish again — creates the kind of continuity that not only could pay off in a major way but also could avoid what can become a never ending lather/rinse/repeat cycle of firing a coach in the hopes of finding a quick fix.

In praising the Steelers for their decision to hire Mike Tomlin in 2007 at a time when he wasn’t the trendy pick (PFT was one of the only media outlets singing the praises loudly of the veteran defensive coach who spent only one year as a coordinator, in Minnesota, before becoming a head coach), soon-to-be Hall of Famer Tony Dungy points out that the Steelers also stick with their coaches through the down times.

It’s easy to do that, of course, when the down times are few and far between. Still, not long ago some fans in Pittsburgh were clamoring for Tomlin to go. The Rooneys ignored the noise — which is easier to do when the stadium is always full. But they always ignore the noise, setting aside the whims of the fans for the concepts that have made the Steelers one of the best franchises in football.

Only one team wins the Super Bowl ever year. For the rest, the goal is to be relevant to that conversation for as long as possible. Far more often than not, the Steelers are. Which is why they’ve had only three coaches since 1969. But maybe the Steelers contend so frequently because they make good coaching hires.

Here’s what Dungy told Peter King of about the Steelers: “I’d tell owners and people in position to make hires to slow down, and study what the Steelers do. They’ve had three coaches in almost 50 years. They don’t fire coaches. They back their coaches when times are hard, and you’re always going to have some of those times when you coach. This last time, when they hired Mike Tomlin, he wasn’t the ‘hot’ guy. [Owner] Dan Rooney took his time, and he knew exactly what they were looking for in a coach. That’s what Dan does. He hires the best person for his team, and he does it on his schedule. I think the problem lots of times with the hiring process is teams have one or two guys in mind and they rush through the process to get one of those guys without looking at more candidates. I think that can lead to mistakes.”

It definitely leads to mistakes, but good luck telling a billionaire who has his heart set on hiring a “hot” candidate that he shouldn’t do what he wants to do. Evaluating football players is a crapshoot even with the many metrics generated by scouting. For coaching, it’s much harder to quantify things. Owners become influenced by buzz — and the media has a major role in the creation of the buzz.

Of course, the lack of minority employees in key positions like offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach makes it even hard for minority candidates to generate buzz in the media or elsewhere. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed before the pool of head coaching candidates will be as diverse as it needs to be.

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Monday morning one-liners

Ansah Getty Images

FB Jerome Felton is among the Bills veterans on the roster bubble.

What can the Dolphins expect from their tight ends?

The Patriots should learn more about their offensive line with pads coming on during camp.

Jets rookie LB Darron Lee still hasn’t signed a contract.

The Ravens share five things you might not know about WR Mike Wallace.

A look at the Bengals’ defensive line depth.

A broken collarbone didn’t keep Browns rookie DB Derrick Kindred off the field last year.

The Steelers are looking for more consistency on special teams.

Devon Still is among the defensive linemen the Texans hope can step up with J.J. Watt injured.

DT Henry Anderson makes this list of Colts to watch at training camp.

The identity of the left tackle is among the questions the Jaguars will answer during camp.

A preview of what to expect from the Titans wide receivers this summer.

Broncos LB Von Miller caught a shark.

There are 37 players heading to camp with the Chiefs for the first time.

Setting the stage at safety for the Raiders.

How will the Chargers deploy their cornerbacks?

Who is the top pass rusher in Cowboys history?

Giants TE Will Tye hopes for bigger returns in his second season.

The Eagles added three players to the roster on Sunday.

Redskins WR DeSean Jackson got to show off his pitching arm.

Former General Manager Phil Emery’s work is still evident on the Bears roster.

Ranking DE Ziggy Ansah as the best player on the Lions.

The Packers have high hopes for their defensive line.

Vikings WR Laquon Treadwell isn’t limiting expectations for his rookie season.

The Falcons are looking for a few good bus drivers.

CB Charles Tillman said playing with a “special” Panthers team lessened the pain of last year’s torn ACL.

The biggest area for improvement on the Saints is clear.

Will it all come together for Buccaneers DE Will Gholston this year?

The Cardinals schedule looks like it could be tougher later in the season.

Breaking down the tight end options for the Rams.

Safety looks like a strength for the 49ers.

Seahawks CB Richard Sherman is coming off another strong season.

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Report: Phil Loadholt expected to retire Monday

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 28:  Phil Loadholt #71 of the Minnesota Vikings applies pressure on Jonathan Babineaux #95 of the Atlanta Falcons on September 28, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tackle Phil Loadholt took a pay cut this offseason in order to hold onto his spot on the Vikings roster, but it appears he won’t be collecting that adjusted salary.

Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan of ESPN report that Loadholt is expected to retire. The veteran, who is coming off a torn Achilles, is slated to meet with team officials on Monday.

Loadholt was a 2009 second-round pick of the Vikings and started 89 games over six seasons before missing all of last year because of his injury. In May, word out of Minnesota was that Loadholt was moving well during offseason work although it seems something wasn’t feeling well enough for Loadholt to continue feeling the urge to play in the NFL.

The Vikings signed former Bengals tackle Andre Smith as a free agent this offseason and Loadholt’s departure would leave him without much competition for the starting job.

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Lions bringing in Jimmy Clausen, wideouts for workout

ay Cutler, Jimmy Clausen AP

The Lions put wide receiver Corey Fuller on the physically unable to perform list Sunday and it’s not clear when he’ll be ready to get back on the field after having foot surgery this offseason.

On Monday, the team will look at a few options to fill in at wideout until Fuller is healthy. Michael Rothstein of reports that Tyler Davis and Larry Pinkard will be among those vying for a spot on the team.

Davis played both ways in the German Football League and did it well enough to be named the MVP, although a stint with the Dolphins this offseason ended without an invitation to camp. Pinkard spent camp and the preseason with the Packers last year, but didn’t make the 53-man roster and went on to spend time on the Raiders’ practice squad.

Davis and Pinkard will be catching passes thrown by Jimmy Clausen, who Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports will also be at the workout. Clausen recently worked out for the Redskins, although his presence was more about having someone to throw to wideouts and the presence of the wideouts suggests it could be the same situation in Detroit. Dan Orlovsky and sixth-round pick Jake Rudock are currently on the depth chart behind Matthew Stafford.

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Tyler Eifert still unsure whether he’ll play Week One after ankle surgery

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 5:  Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown pass during the fourth quarter of the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on November 5, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Cleveland 31-10.(Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images) Getty Images

When Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert underwent ankle surgery two months ago, the expectation was that he could return Week One, but might miss the first couple regular season games. That’s still the case.

Eifert is described as “on schedule” by the Cincinnati Enquirer, which reports that the Bengals hope Eifert will be ready for the September 11 opener but there’s still a chance that rehab could take longer than expected.

Eifert suffered the ankle injury in the Pro Bowl but waited four months to have surgery on it because he hoped it would heal without surgery. If he ends up missing regular season games, that will be yet another blow to the Pro Bowl, which is already viewed by many if not most players as more trouble than it’s worth. It’s hard to see why Eifert would want to play in a Pro Bowl again, given the trouble it’s causing him now.

The more immediate concern, however, is the start of the regular season. Eifert is Andy Dalton’s favorite red zone target, and Dalton isn’t sure if Eifert will be there when the season starts.

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Strange video apparently of Aldon Smith emerges

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 13:  Aldon Smith #99 of the Oakland Raiders warms up prior to playing the Cincinnati Bengals in their NFL season opener game at Coliseum on September 13, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Not many players who are permanently banished from the league with the ability to apply for reinstatement after one year ever get reinstated. Raiders defensive end Aldon Smith seems to be on track to be among the likes of Justin Blackmon and Darryl Washington.

Via, a video has emerged that appears to include Smith, a hand-rolled cigarette, and a conversation regarding whether it’s wise for him to be making such a video for posting on the Internet.

Easy answer: It’s not wise.

It’s still not entirely clear that Smith is the person in the video, but it sure seems that he is. And if Smith is doing things so clearly ill-advised that for the public eye, it’s fair to wonder whether and to what extent he’s doing other ill-advised things not for the public eye when it comes to the specific things he’s supposed to be doing and not be doing in order to satisfy the terms of the plan devised for him by the medical review officer responsible for Smith’s compliance with the substance-abuse policy.

Smith at one point was one of the most dominant young pass rushers in the NFL, after becoming the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft. A string of legal issues and suspensions have left him on the outside looking in, and he may never get back on the inside again.

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Seahawks extend John Schneider

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 02: (L-R) John Schneider, General Manager of the Seattle Seahawks and head coach Pete Carroll celebrates after their 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seahawks fans can stop worrying. And executives with other teams can stop coveting the G.M. job in Seattle.

John Clayton of reports that the Seahawks have reached an agreement on a new contract with G.M. John Schneider. The deal will make him one of the highest-paid General Managers in football.

Per the report, the contract is “expected to approach” the $3.75 million earned by Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome, which is believed to be the maximum salary for any NFL General Manager. (This overlooks the coaches with de facto personnel power, like Bill Belichick of the Patriots, whose salary is a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a series of non-responsive grunts.)

Schneider previously was believed to be targeting $4 million per year as he entered the final year of his contract. The compromise gives him security for some period of time beyond 2016. Clayton’s report, however, doesn’t mention the length of the extension.

The next step, per Clayton, is expected to be an extension for coach Pete Carroll, who also is under contract through 2016.

UPDATE 11:40 p.m. ET: It’s official, according to the guy who’ll be writing the checks.

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J.J. Watt says he’ll be back on the field “very soon”

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 01:  J.J. Watt #99 of Houston Texans enters the field before the game against the New England Patriots at Reliant Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

With plenty of conflicting reports (some from the same media company) regarding whether Texans defensive end J.J. Watt will miss six weeks or eight weeks or 10 weeks or more after undergoing back surgery, Watt himself has chimed in, albeit with a vague assessment of his expected return date.

Watt, in a handwritten note to fans photographed and posted on Twitter, concludes with this message: “See you on the field very soon.”

It’s a nice gesture from Watt, who seems to be applying his own unique spin to Peyton Manning’s habit of writing handwritten notes. And at a time when it’s become popular to give Watt grief (I’ve done my share of it), I need to repeat something I said Friday on the radio in Houston: We get numb to the fact that football players have surgery, because so many of them have it. But any surgery — even “minor” surgery — is a big deal. The human body is being opened up, with delicate, precise repairs made to key components of it.

Surgery entails a risk of infection or other complications. It entails a risk the surgery simply won’t fix the problem. It often entails a recovery process featuring pain, discomfort, and the inability to do things that the player would like to do, including practicing and playing football.

We want these guys to entertain us. We often don’t think of them as real people who go through the same real crap the rest of us do. When it comes to invasive medical procedures, they’re far different from the rest of us; surgery happens to them a lot more often than it happens to most of us.

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Cowboys bus involved in crash that claims four lives


The multi-million-dollar bus belonging to the Dallas Cowboys has been involved in an accident in Arizona. While no one on the Cowboys bus was seriously injured, law enforcement officials along with multiple reports indicate that more than one fatality occurred in another vehicle.

The van and the bus were the only vehicles involved in the accident.

Via, the bus was traveling from Texas to Las Vegas for a fan event. The bus then was due to go to Oxnard, California for training camp.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times reports that four people in the van died.

According to, officials said the collision occurred as the driver of the van was making an illegal turn onto U.S. 93.

Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple told ABC News that only staff members were on the bus, and that they sustained “bumps and bruises.”

[Photo credit: Arizona State Police.]

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Patriots sign Vinnie Sunseri, Kyler Kerbyson

NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 15:  Vinnie Sunseri #43 of the New Orleans Saints runs the ball during a preseason game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tennessee Titans at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 15, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

The New England Patriots announced the signings of safety Vinnie Sunseri and offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson on Sunday.

Sunseri was a fifth-round selection by the New Orleans Saints in 2014. He appeared in nine games for New Orleans before being released by the Saints in April. He recorded five tackles – four on special teams, one on defense – before an arm injury landed him on injured reserve.

A knee injury last year led the Saints to waive Sunseri and he spent all of last season on injured reserve after clearing waivers.

Kerbyson went undrafted after starting two seasons at the University of Tennessee. He’s played both tackle positions and left guard during his tenure with Tennessee.

After the signings, the Patriots still have one open spot on their 90-man roster.

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IK Enemkpali could become a starter on the Buffalo defense

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 23:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills reacts with IK Enemkpali #75 before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 23, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

A year after IK Enemkpali broke Geno Smith’s jaw while they were teammates, Enemkpali may be taking aim at him in a more traditional sense.

With Smith possibly slated to start for the Jets, who stubbornly refuse to sweeten the pot for Ryan Fitzpatrick, Enemkpali eventually could become a regular — if not a starter — for the Buffalo defense.

As explained by Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News, the departure of Mario Williams coupled with the shoulder injury to first-round rookie Shaq Lawson has created an opening for Enemkpali, who needs only to outshine Manny Lawson to earn a starting role.

“IK’s done really well,” coach Rex Ryan said during the offseason program. “We’re bumping guys around and stuff but, yeah, he’ll have a chance. IK is a physical player. He’s doing a much better job in his pass-coverage responsibility. So I could definitely see him pushing for playing time, without question.”

Enemkpali may not even need to beat out Manny Lawson, if Ryan decides Manny Lawson is needed elsewhere. Wherever and how much they play, guys like Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes and other pre-2015 defenders have learned Ryan’s defense far better than they knew it a year ago.

“Last year, there’d be silence and a lot of questions asked in the locker room,” Manny Lawson said, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. “This year, there’s not silence in the meeting room and no questions being asked in the locker room.”

But that doesn’t mean questions are discouraged.

If you don’t know something, ask,” Lawson said. “Because it’s only going to help us to know. If one person is out there clueless and doesn’t know what to do, that can be a touchdown for us on the defensive side and that can cost us the game.”

A game blown here or there could be the difference between a postseason berth and yet another failure to make the playoffs. With a failure to make the playoffs this year quite possibly the catalyst for a house cleaning, the players have every reason to do everything they can to know the defense and to execute it as it’s designed.

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